Saturday, January 23, 2010

Planting Spring Onions

It sure feels like spring today, 69 degrees, bright and sunny, light breeze= a perfect day to plant just about anything. It really is still too early to plant most Spring things, but a good time to plant the very last of the cool season veggies and to get an early start on onions.  I may be messing things up as i really shouldn't plant the onions until mid February, but this winter is totally baffling me and i feel i might as well pretend it is going to stay warm, cuz it just might. And if it doesn't, these onion sets only cost 2 dollars so it won't be a huge loss. My rain barrel is full, so the water doesn't cost me anything, and i'd be cultivating these new planters anyway. I say it's a win win.

I also planted some mustard seed today and some kale seeds. My winter crop of kale is completely depressing, but i will not be defeated! Try Try Again!

As always, i picked out the variety of onion i wanted, then immediately forgot which i picked. I THINK that i got a Texas variety of white bermuda that matures in about 90-100 days and stores up to 3 months after being cured in the sun for a week or so. I wanted an onion that stored pretty well for this early batch, I plan a second batch in about a month of either a sweet or red onion. My plan is to grow the onions in my new planters out front, harvest green onions as they grow allowing some to bulb quite large, then follow with my Summer planting of basil. This new location has a lot of sun so i think the basil will like that spot and the time the onions take to mature should put their harvest at just the right time to plant the basil.

I almost feel silly planting more onions. I have a patch of perennial 'walking onions' that are doing great - but i wanted the regular old bulbing onions as well to eat raw in salsas and things.

I chose to plant some lettuce seeds, a good companion to onions amongst them. I planted the onions a bit close together: about 2-3 inches apart. Onions are happiest at about 4 inches apart, but by planting them closer i maximize my space and can harvest smaller scallion type onions while thinning them out as they get bigger, leaving about half to grow to their full size.

I prepared my beds with Texas Greensand, soft rock phosphate, lots of compost and some molasses. I set each onion start into a finger hole of soil, about 2 inches deep. I then sift the soil around it, press down with my fingers and lift the little onion up to be about 1/2 inch deep. This helps the roots to be dangling down deeper in the soil instead of all flumuxed in a tangle around the tip of the onion.

The large bulbs left to get big should mature in about 2-3 months, depending on the weather, etc.  Harvest when the greens start to droop back and the bulb has swollen. Pinch off any flower stalks that come up. Onions like a lot of fertilizer to get good and big. I will side dress with a nitrogen rich fertilizer several times during the season, starting when they've reached about 8 inches tall and repeating every 3 weeks or so (if i remember!)

Onions are a must in every garden. They can be planted in the Spring or Fall. They're a good companion to carrots, lettuce, dill, brassicas, strawberries,  peppers and tomatoes. Keep away from peas. Last year i planted them here and there in my garden and they did well, as did their neighbors. I found it difficult to keep track of them, however and chose to dedicate planters to them alone this year.

Plant onions for their attractiveness, their helpfulness in the garden, and their healthfulness. Onions and garlic should find their way into at least a meal a day. I use them to aid in my healthy saute technique: the moisture within onions is released under a lid and allows me to cook things that would otherwise need oil with simply a moist, steamyness. They are delicious, versatile, and chock full of vitamin C, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Onions may help to reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.  Whenever i hear a friend say they're getting sick my answer is always this: "Drink some white tea, and eat a bunch of garlic and onions."

So, Here's to your health!

What is your favorite variety of onion?

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